Proper retirement of Old Glory aided by collection bins
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For military wife Denise Etter of Cranberry, it was painful driving past a home or business flying a tattered or torn American flag.
Such a sight would prompt her husband, Daniel, an Army veteran who had served in Bosnia, to make a gentle suggestion to the owner that it was time for a new flag and for the dignified retirement of the worn Old Glory.
More often than not, people would ask what a dignified retirement entailed.
That lack of understanding led Mrs. Etter to create "Retire Your Old Glory" to collect unserviceable flags so they could be properly disposed of by organizations such as the American Legion, the Boy Scouts of America and the Veterans of Foreign War.
As Flag Day quickly approaches -- one week from today -- Mrs. Etter said she has collected close to 1,500 flags.
United States Code Title 4, Chapter 1 - The Flag specifies the way to regard the American flag, including: "The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning."
After working with Cranberry officials, Mrs. Etter initiated the first dedicated flag bin in Cranberry on May 1, 2011 at the Rochester Road municipal center. Since then, more than 1,330 flags have been collected from the site.
Township spokeswoman Judi Boren, who helps with the effort, said the program has been very successful, noting that the bin was "stuffed full of flags" as of the Tuesday following Memorial Day.
Bins were also placed in Erie County (one in Fairview and another at the Erie Maritime Museum) then, on May 19, a flag bin was added in Upper St. Clair at the Community and Recreation Center on Mayview Road.
Fairview has collected about 205 flags since fall 2011 and about 110 flags have been collected in the museum bin since January.
As of Monday, 26 flags had been deposited in the Upper St. Clair bin.
Mrs. Etter credits the military and service organizations that have been working for years to properly dispose of American flags. She said she sees her role as facilitating a convenient way to collect flags.
"It's about making the process simple for people. Sometimes, people don't know how to get their old flag to the VFW or the Legion,'' Mrs. Etter, 44, said.
The effort involved dealing with municipal officials, designing graphics for the bins, placing the bins and creating a website: www.retireyouroldglory.com. There's also an email address: email@example.com.
Mrs. Etter said she generally collects the flags on a monthly basis.
"They just keep coming and coming. I find myself wondering what people did before the bin was there," she said, adding she has "heard nothing but positive feedback. The community has embraced this and is clearly taking advantage of it."
A local boy scout troop (Cub Scout Pack No. 406) and Cranberry VFW No. 879, assisted by the Cranberry fire department, held a burning ceremony for the American flags collected by last November.
Mr. Etter, 45, who served in the Army between 1996 and 1999 with three deployments to Bosnia, said: "I am as proud of Denise for taking on this project and filling this need, as I am to have served in the military."
First Published June 7, 2012 5:48 am